A Group Failure

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things 
at the hands of the elders, the chief priests
and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed 
and on the third day be raised to life.”
Matthew 16:21 (NIV)

“…having loved His own, the ones in the world,
He loved them to the very end.”
John 13:1 (NASB)

The rigidity of some people’s beliefs reminds me of a humorous saying, “Some people’s minds are like concrete, thoroughly mixed and permanently set.” Many of us sometime or another have found ourselves embarrassed after learning that a long held belief was totally wrong.

The Apostles were about one year away from the cross when our Lord began to teach them what was coming down the pipe (Matthew 16:21). We all know what impetuous Peter said to his Master as soon as he realized what his beloved Teacher had just announced. He truly loved Jesus and thought the idea of the Saviour dying and rising the third day was far beneath his Master’s dignity so he made a strenuous objection.

After continuous teaching concerning the Easter message the disciple still did not get it. The very night of the betrayal a dispute broke out among them concerning who should be reckoned the greatest (Luke 22:24). The horrors facing their Lord that night and the next day was far from their minds.

Rather than supporting, encouraging, and helping their Master each one was thinking of how he might gain supremacy over the other disciples. The very shadow of the cross loomed large and the Saviour was deeply grieved even to the point of death (Matthew 26:38). His emotional upheaval confused the disciples, and they did not know what to do to help their Teacher. He had never spoken about Himself like that before.

So, we see that all the disciples failed the Saviour grievously BUT He did not fail them! As John put it so beautifully in John 13:1,

“Having loved His own,
the ones in the world,
He loved them to the very end.”

In a few moments they would all forsake Him in Gethsemane. They abandoned their loving Benefactor after promising to be with Him to the end even if their loyalty cost them their deaths. When push came to shove, they left Him in the lurch. They abandoned Him in the darkest night in history.

Yet nothing they could do would deter His loyal love for them. That is the point. When they failed He succeeded.

As it was with the disciples tragic failure centuries ago, so it is with us today. When we fail our beloved Master, even if it is a catastrophic failure, He loves us still. He remains forever faithful to His beloved people. Come to Him today whether joyfully or with a broken heart for a grievous sin. He waits patiently to embrace you and forgive you as you repent. No sin is so heinous that He cannot forgive. No failure so dreadful that He will not make you spotlessly clean. Never, never be hesitant to return to Him Who stays faithful. He longs to embrace you again and again.

Come and come right now.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Full, Final, Only Payment For Sin

“Every priest stands daily ministering
and offering time after time the same sacrifices,
which can never take away sins; 
but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, 
sat down at the right hand of God,
waiting from that time onward until His enemies
are made a footstool for His feet. 
For by one offering He has perfected for all time
those who are sanctified”
Hebrews 10:11-14 (NASB)

Many of us have purchased things on time. Perhaps the most notable payment plan we had was a mortgage on our home. Some of us made monthly payments for 25 years until the debt was fully paid and we were mortgage free. What a great day that was when the bank stopped debiting our accounts and we owned our home outright! The bank had no further claim whatsoever.

Regarding the debt sinners owe to our holy God our verses today make it abundantly clear that the work our Lord did completely removed the debt of sin for “those who are sanctified” and the proof is seen in the resurrection and ascension of our Lord to the Father’s right hand. Death and the grave could not keep our Lord after He had paid the full price of redemption.

Do you have confidence to approach a holy God today because you have claimed the “one sacrifice for sins” as your own? Are you rejoicing as you call God “my Father, the one in heaven”? Do you marvel that you are “perfected” eternally? Do you have confidence to come near to the Lord in prayer because your Saviour has taken away all of your sin and you stand completely righteous before God, even as righteous as Christ Himself?

Whenever we sin, and we all sin daily, we look to the cross and in humility thank the Good Shepherd for giving His life for the sheep. We have a perfect salvation because it was planned by God before the universe was established (Ephesians 1:4), it was completed in history by Christ (Hebrews 10:11-14), and the Holy Spirit opened our hearts so that we paid attention to the message (Acts 16:14) and were saved.

Make this day one of celebration as you consider how you have been made a beneficiary in God’s plan of redemption through the Easter message. Be in awe of your God who has drawn you to Christ (John 6:44). You have been taught by God (John 6:45). You have everything needed for time and eternity. Say with Peter

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who according to His great mercy
has caused us to be born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.

 1 Peter 1:3 NASB

Not all the blood of beasts,
On Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away its stain.

But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name,
And richer blood than they.

My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.

My soul looks back to see
The burdens Thou didst bear
When hanging on the cursed tree,
And knows her guilt was there.

Believing, we rejoice
To see the curse remove;
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice,
And sing His bleeding love.

– Isaac Watts

Before Or After Dawn?

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb
and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 
So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple,
the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,
and we don’t know where they have put him!’” 
John 20:1-2 (NIV)

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” 
Matthew 28:1 (NIV)

Skeptics love to point out alleged contradictions in the Bible. One favourite “contradiction” deals with the timing of when the women came to the tomb of Jesus. John and Matthew’s records of the event indeed appear to contradict each other. John says, “while it was still dark” and Matthew tells us it was “at dawn”.

How can we explain such a clear difference in the two accounts? Is it possible? Yes, it certainly it possible!

When more than one person witnesses an event their recall of that event will differ in some details. One may speak about the rain while another may comment on the damp weather the day of the event. Different words make the witness believable. If they use exactly the same words to describe the same detail of the event, then you know they got together to compare notes and are likely lying.

Matthew and John use different words and they speak of different timing for the women’s trip to the tomb. Matthew refers to two Mary’s going to the tomb. John speaks of one Mary. This is not a contradiction as both speak of Mary Magdalene.

The point is that the sun rises and sets faster around Jerusalem than north in, say, Canada or England. So, John speaks of when the women left for the tomb, when it was still dark, and Matthew speaks of when the women arrived at the tomb. The time it took to cover the distance to the tomb was all the time needed for the sun to rise. Problem solved.

The witnesses to the resurrection were honest reporters of the historic events. We have every reason to trust them, the people who were there and saw the events and who bore credible witness to the resurrection.

Do you believe these honest witnesses? Does the power it took to raise Christ from the dead energize your life today (Ephesians 1:19-20)? Are you more than a conqueror through Christ (Romans 8:37)? Renew your vow to serve the risen Lord today and be thankful for the honest reports of the empty tomb! He will come alongside you and provide all the strength you need to faithfully serve Him every day until you receive the “Well done good and faithful servant.”

How To Glorify God In Times Of Trial

“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances 
have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 
so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ
has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard
and to everyone else…”
Philippians 1:12-13 (NASB)

One of the greatest, if not the greatest musical composer of all time, was Ludwig van Beethoven. He towers over lesser lights in his remarkable output. Yet some of his greatest works were composed after he became deaf! How did he do it? We marvel at his ability to create majestic sound when he was unable to hear his mighty works.

What an amazing memory he had to be able to recall the sounds of instruments and how they blend together. He was wonderfully blessed by his Creator. To rise above such a handicap speaks of his strength of character.

When Paul was in jail, he did not stop preaching Christ and the resurrection. In fact, he seems excited to be able to reach the staff and fellow prisoners about the Good News. Had he not been put into jail those people might never have heard the Gospel. Now that is making the best of a bad situation!

Many times, when in hospital, I have been privileged to share the Gospel with staff and fellow patients. Those people have never met me until I was admitted to the hospital. Some I have prayed with. Others want to know why I am not fearful or distressed Such times I am so glad to use my suffering and how I cope as a platform to share the Gospel.

When we are submissive to the Lord in times of trial it glorifies Him. It is one thing to say the Lord is good when we have smooth sailing. But when we are in peril and we say the Lord is good that has a totally different effect on those who listen to us praising God. There is an authenticity and authority to our witness when we speak in the context of personal suffering.

Horatio Spafford sent his family from their home in Chicago to Europe by boat in November 1873. A collision with another boat at sea left him with the loss of his four daughters with only his wife surviving. He had lost most of his fortune and so had a double tragedy to face. From the place of intense suffering, he wrote the following hymn. May its words be your testimony today.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

– H. Spafford

What Are You Looking At?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, 
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

I recall learning to drive using the family car. It was a black 1953 Buick Special. On the highway I tried to line up the outer edge of the driver’s front fender with the center line on the highway. I found this did not work well because I was constantly overcorrecting with the steering wheel. Only when I looked farther down the highway was I able to keep the car safely in my lane of traffic.

The point made in our verses today is that Jesus endured the cross by looking down the road at the final result of His suffering. The long term view stabilizes us as we endure the trials of the present. Looking too much at today’s suffering can blur the glory that is to come.

We need to look at the glorious future promised to believers and described in various parts of Scripture especially the book of the Revelation. The authors of Scripture struggled to find words acceptable to encompass the glory of our Father’s home and our home for eternity.

Believer, when you find yourself becoming weary, try lifting your eyes up from the present and gaze on your final goal for a time by reading about our glorious future promised in Scripture. Read Revelation 21-22; John 14-17; 1 Peter 1 and other Scriptures to lift your eyes to the glories we shall share forever when all tears are wiped from our eyes. All pain, sorrow, suffering will cease. We shall live forever with the saints of all ages and our Good Shepherd shall be at the center of heaven.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NIV)

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, 
with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel 
and with the trumpet call of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first. 
After that, we who are still alive and are left 
will be caught up together with them in the clouds 
to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever. 
Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

May you look at your future as a child of God. Continue to live in the present with an eye to your eternal home and the joys waiting for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. We will certainly inherit all that our Redeemer purchased for His people.

Join all the glorious names
Of wisdom, love, and pow’r,
That ever mortals knew,
That angels ever bore:
All are too weak to speak His worth,
To poor to set my Savior forth.

Great Prophet of my God,
My tongue would bless Thy name,
By Thee the joyful news
Of our salvation came,
The joyful news of sins forgiv’n,
Of hell subdued, and peace with Heav’n.

Jesus, my great High Priest,
Offered His blood, and died;
My guilty conscience seeks
No sacrifice beside;
The pow’r of His atoning blood
Has won acceptance with my God.

Thou art my Counselor,
My Pattern, and my Guide,
And Thou my Shepherd art;
Oh, keep me near Thy side;
Nor let my feet e’er turn astray
To wander in the crooked way.

My dear almighty Lord,
My Conqu’ror and my King,
Thy scepter and Thy sword,
Thy reigning grace I sing:
Thine is the pow’r; behold, I sit
In willing bonds beneath Thy feet.

– Isaac Watts